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COLUMN: Staging garage sales: not for the faint of heart

After many, many, MANY times of saying we need to get rid of some stuff, I finally caved in.

I set a date to have a garage sale.

Now, the organizer/coordinator in me set the date for several weeks in advance - thereby allowing plenty of time to sort, clean and price all the wonderful things that we would have for sale. I envisioned doing a clean sweep through each room of the house, children by my side, as we happily gathered items in a box and joked over what to price each item.

And then I woke up.

I started upstairs first. After gathering momentum in my own bedroom cleaning out my dresser drawers, closet and bookshelf, I tried to interest my husband in doing the same. After about a week, he finally acquiesced to cleaning out two drawers. Since he works late every night and doesn't even see the bedroom by the light of day, I cut him some slack.

So I moved on to the children's bedrooms.

Armed with a box, garbage bag and laundry basket, I dove into the room. Within two hours, I had three loads of laundry to wash, two trash bags full and three things in the box to sell.

My youngest children regarded EVERYTHING in that room as something they couldn't live without. No matter if it was a shredded blanket that was only held together by threads, two pieces of legos from a Star Wars set or an unknown "science project" on the shelf in their closet, they balked every time I reached for the garbage bag or sale box.

"MOM! You can't get rid of that!"

I looked at what they were busy digging out of the box: a cheap, plastic toy from a fast-food meal.

"We can't keep everything," I sighed, repeating myself for the umpteenth time that day.

In addition to trash and dirty clothes, I also had to make a pile for "Things That Aren't Supposed to be in Their Room in the First Place." These items included the emergency flashlight, cups, scissors, Sharpie markers, their father's laser pointer and pieces from my wedding silverware.

Eventually, I was able to convince them to part with a milk crate's worth of books. I also managed to toss a few of their stuffed animals in there while they weren't looking (they were ones that I knew they didn't sleep with anymore -- don't panic).

Next was my older daughters' room. I allotted myself an entire weekend to work with them on this so we wouldn't have many interruptions. My husband took the younger two out for the day, while I stayed behind to slave-drive my remaining kids -- stopping only to allow them a sip of water and crust of bread.

Actually, after the first three hours of their whining and complaining, we had a relatively nice time. I got to see what my daughters deemed worth keeping and what they had outgrown. I admit that there were a few times I had to retrieve something they carelessly tossed into the "get-rid-of" box, like a pair of jeans I had just bought them.

"Mom, those are too big."

"No they aren't," I said, looking them over carefully. "They are the perfect size."

"But Mom, they are too full - everyone's wearing skinny jeans now."

"You mean you don't like them because you can actually bend in them without fainting?"

These kids today.

By the time we had finished the upstairs, the date of the garage sale was upon us. I decided to color code the items so the kids could keep the money for the items they were selling. That was the only way I could think of to get them to clean their rooms. One daughter even cataloged each item she put in the sale and their listed price so she could get her fair share after the event.

It was pretty amusing to hear them decide how much to ask for their stuff. A "rare" Barbie outfit was going to be labeled $10, but I talked her down when she admitted it was one she made herself (and never really finished it). A pair of red high-heel shoes was going to be listed for $8 since she "only wore them once" until I reminded her that she bought them for 25 cents at a previous garage sale.

Early the day of the sale I tried to rouse my children out of bed. They didn't stir until I told them I would keep their money if they didn't come down to help.

People were already walking up the driveway before we had all the tables out. The kids were excited, and I could hear them mentally adding up their take with each customer.

Gradually, however, their interest waned as the heat of the day intensified. By the time we decided to call it quits, only one die-hard remained outside with me, looming protectively over the cash box.

Despite my best efforts, the color-coded sticker system didn't work, as we forgot to grab them from the items or people talked us down from the listed price. No matter, I knew what we started with, and we ended up making about $100 in profit.

As I calculated how much each kid received, I let them indulge in playing with the piles of cash. Their eyes were wide with excitement as they buried their hands in the riches, fanned themselves with fives and tens and threw it above their heads. Since they don't get an allowance, this was the only cash they really got to see.

I presented them each with their "take" and reminded them to put it away before they lost it. Not more than five minutes later, one came back to me saying she had already lost two dollars, and, noting that I still had my take of the cash, asked if I would replenish her.

Oh, the life lessons we learn from having a garage sale.